Hearing the words “you have cancer” is never easy. Having to tell your family and friends is difficult. Informing your child – no matter the age – is heart wrenching. I have been on the receiving end of the news from my mother, not once or twice, but three times.
When telling your child you have cancer, keep these five things in mind.
1. Be Prepared
How you tell your kid is important. It can have a lasting effect on the child. Figure out what you want to say. Rehearse if you need to. If you think you may be too emotional, maybe your spouse or a friend would be able to assist in providing the news. When do you want to tell your child your diagnosis? Think about your child and what time of day would be best. If they tend to get cranky at the end of the day, it may be wise to say something earlier. Where do you want to give the news? Think about a public area versus a private setting. Are you going to do it one-to-one or as a group?
2. Be Open And Honest
Believe it or not, but your child will want to know the truth, even if it hurts. They want to know what it means to have cancer, what will happen to you, and if you will get better. Give them the facts, however, keep it age appropriate. You don’t want to provide the same information to a child who is five as you would to one that is sixteen.
The more you talk about the situation, the more you may help your child understand. Encourage them to ask questions. Let them know they can talk to somebody else if they would prefer.
4. Let Them Be Emotional
Hearing your parent is sick is not easy on a child at any age. They may feel angry. They may need to cry. They may need to yell. Let them have those emotions. Tell them that it’s okay to cry and be scared; more than likely, you want to do the same.
5. Keep The Lines Of Communication Open
After everything is said and done, let your child know that you are always willing to talk whenever they need to. They may not have questions at first, but once things start to sink in, questions may arise.
When my mom had her first bout of breast cancer, I was 11-years-old. I do not remember how they told us or what they said. In fact, neither do my parents or siblings. We realized we all tried to forget many of the things that happened during that time. Yes, we were scared, but we knew Mom was going to do everything she could to get healthy. I was 16-years-old when my mom found out she had endometrial cancer. I went to her appointment with her. I was her moral support she knew she needed. As soon as she came walking out of the treatment room, I knew we had an answer. My mom didn’t have to say anything to me. With her third cancer, her second bout of breast cancer, all of us kids were adults living in cities hours away from home. Being told over the phone was difficult. Not being able to hug my mom, be there for her when she needed the extra assistance was even harder. As an adult, I knew more about cancer, her stage, the treatment, and her outcome. It still didn’t mean we weren’t concerned.
I had to tell my daughter when she just turned 6-years-old that I was having a surgery to test for cancer. I told her then because I needed to have minor surgery which required me to have a couple days rest. It was hard to tell her, but I knew I had to. Some of the big details were left out due to her age, but we made sure she knew the truth and that it was okay to ask questions.
It is never easy having to tell your child you are ill. I have learned from my daughter that being honest is the one request she has. Take a close look at your child and think what would be best for them.
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